Improving Productivity While Working Fewer Hours
You have probably heard the “work smarter not harder” thing a few times haven’t you? Unless of course you have never read about productivity. It’s true. As I got older and the blogging, social media and search industries more complex it became more difficult to work longer hours. So I reversed the trend.
I work less now while being more productive. How exactly?
The sad tale first
At first I have to tell you that I almost suffered a breakdown a few years back. I was mentally and physically on the verge of collapse for months. I worked (or at least I thought so) for 12 or more hours a day.
I would turn on my computer first thing in the morning while in bed and turn it off while falling asleep (or often while being unable to find some sleep). The last thing I did before falling asleep was writing comments on social media and blogs.
To keep afloat I would drink a lot of caffeinated lemonade.
I often already woke up dizzy and barely able to think clearly or move around so I had to get my dose of caffeine in order not to get headaches (or rather migraine as I found out later). I would stare at the screen all day and do whatever caught my attention without no real plan or schedule.
I would work for several clients at once and try to get even more of them all the time sending out offers to whomever approached me,
whether it made sense to work for them or not. I worked for small pay for people who didn’t appreciate my work. My own SEO blog (the one you read right now) was almost completely forgotten by then and many people didn’t even know I had one. In short my career seemed to be already over even before it really started. I was burned out. I even got fat. I looked ridiculous because I got a fat belly while being very weak from sitting all day so that my upper body was very thin.
I looked like a pregnant woman several months into the pregnancy.
My wife started to call me her “little Buddha”. I would get angry for any petty reason and became apathetic. I was so drawn out that I often didn’t even have the energy to get up from the screen: I just kept on clicking for hours without doing anything in particular.
So one day I decided that I couldn’t go on like this forever. I viewed an infographic about how sitting all day kills you and how some of the a-list tech bloggers suffered from heart attacks and the likes. I knew I had to change radically.
The actual changes
So what exactly did I change then? Over the next few years I changed a lot. Many things happened almost at once but others took time. By now I
- start the day with work out. I do 1 and half hour of parkour each day. Yes, that’s the thing with the running, jumping, vaulting and scaling of obstacles like rails or walls.
- gave up caffeine.
- gave up smartphones.
- limited my sugar consumption and replaced the rest mostly with honey.
- limited my meat and milk products consumption and replaced a lot of with soy, rice and vegetables.
- have a strict schedule now and plan my week in advance.
- sit only a few hours in front of the screen and the switch it off for four hours at least (during which I read books)
- meditate daily in the evening after work.
- charge twice or more the hourly rate I did earlier on.
- work mostly on projects I like with selected clients, those who really appreciate me.
- make time for my own projects, like this blog here for example.
- focus on covering one area of my expertise, SEO and don’t try to become a world renowned expert on blogging and social media too.
- work 6 hours a day but effectively plan 5 of those for actual tasks.
- use the Greenberg method to deal with stress and anxiety
- approach life with some conscious mindsets like “the world temple” or the “the tourist“
I bet I forgot half of the changes I implemented to my lifestyle. My wife was also very supportive, professionally too as she is a TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) therapist who treats me for free with acupuncture and the likes.
Walking the dog three times a day is also a great way to improve my overall health and well-being.
Indeed it was also while walking the dog that I met a parkour practitioner my age who I trained with later on. Until then I was convinced to be too old, weak, fat [insert your excuse here] to practice parkour. I don’t mean to say that parkour is the one-size fits all solution for all your problems: there are many other sports like
- even gardening
that can make you happier and healthier at once. Sweating in a gym isn’t necessarily one of them.
Make sure to train outside and get some fresh air while at it. Don’t just jog though. Jogging is too one-sided to be really healthy. You can also notice how many joggers are running like zombies barely present where they are. So when jogging make sure to do a lot of stretching and other workout in between. In parkour you just run between obstacles so it’s much more natural. Indeed it has been called ” the natural method” initially.
The promising outcome
I’m not an enlightened superhuman being yet.
I still have some migraine occasionally but far less often and only a shade of the debilitating pain I experienced in the past. Compared to my earlier self aka the grumpy wretch I’m almost invincible now. I’m laid back, optimistic and good-mannered again.
Even all the frustration Google inflicts on me gets tackled on the job now and doesn’t poison my private life.
Now don’t think that all this is just “work” for me. I love what I do. I love blogging, social media participation is so much fun for me and it doesn’t even feel like work and I truly enjoy the challenges of SEO. I don’t write at night a lot anymore, neither do I engage in the conversation instead of sleeping. Instead I get up in the morning eager to start my training. I train all year no matter the weather. It’s all the other things above that made it possible for me to train at all.
Back in my former life I wouldn’t be even able to get up that early to move or spend that much time on training.
The point is that you are cheating yourself when you think you can do more by working 10, 12 or more hours a day. Without resting and recharging, moving and getting inspired outside not only your work will suffer.
* Creative Commons image by David Goehring